Thunderstorms

We’ve all heard the rumble of thunder and seen a lightning flash. But did you know that lightning is always present in a thunderstorm? These dramatic storms can cause damage with heavy rain, hailstorms, flooding and high winds. Lightning can also damage buildings and start fires.

Thunderstorms

Thunderstorms are caused in warm, humid conditions, when moist warm air rises rapidly. They can form anywhere, but it’s more usual to see them in the afternoon and evening. The high winds of a thunderstorm cause ice and water particles in the atmosphere to bump against each other at high speeds. This causes an ‘electric charge’ to build up. The top of the thunderstorm has a ‘positive charge’ while the bottom builds up a ‘negative charge’.

Objects on the ground are positively charged, so if a strong negative charge in the cloud connects with something on the ground (usually something that sticks up like a mountain, a church steeple, a tree or a person), the lightning strikes with a bright flash of electricity. Lightning can strike the air or inside clouds, too. There are about 5–10 times as many ‘cloud flashes’ as ‘cloud-to-ground’ flashes.

The thunder we hear is caused by a lightning strike. Lightning makes the air around it expand and shrink rapidly. This creates a sound wave that we hear as thunder. We see lightning before we hear thunder, though, because light travels faster than sound.

Did you know?

  • There are about 100 lightning strikes on the Earth’s surface every second. A bolt of lightning can contain up to one billion volts of electricity.
  • Lightning kills around three people in the UK each year and injures around 30. Worldwide, the death toll is about 2,000 people per year.
  • During a thunderstorm you should go inside. Never stand under a tree or hold something metal, like a metal umbrella. Lightning is attracted to metal and travels through water, too. Never swim outdoors during a thunderstorm.
  • The largest hailstone ever recorded was 8 inches (20 cm) across and weighed approximately 2 pounds (0.9 kg). It fell during a thunderstorm in South Dakota, USA, in 2010.

Case Study

On 19 July 2017, southern England and Wales experienced extreme thunderstorms with more than 100,000 lightning strikes in one night. The storms brought torrential rain, severe hailstorms and flash flooding. Many properties were flooded, power networks damaged and travel services disrupted. The lightning strikes also sparked house fires.

Our Thunderstorm Resources

Lightning Poster 1

Lightning Poster 1

Thunderstorms always come with lightning, and this amazing photo captures a real burst of electricity across the sky. Not a good time to be outside!

Lightning Poster 2

Lightning Poster 2

We included this photo in our Extreme Weather poster set because we thought the skyline and crane put the lightning into context. The lightning seems to be opening an electric crack right across the sky!

Lightning Template 2

Lightning Template 2

Put on a flashy display with the help of this lightning template! There are 5 sizes of the shape over 2 pages.

Lightning Template 3

Lightning Template 3

Spark up your displays and your crafts with the help of our third lightning bolt template. It's jagged and dramatic, and it comes in a variety of sizes.

Storm Cloud Tracing Page

Storm Cloud Tracing Page

Trace over the clouds, lightning bolts and rain and you will have your own thunderstorm picture! I should think those clouds need to be coloured a dark grey, don't you?

Stormy Day Picture Gallery

Stormy Day Picture Gallery

Here's a fun way to record memories of a stormy day - with our printable picture gallery. There's space to draw 5 small pictures inside the lovely frames!

Thunderstorm Diary Worksheet

Thunderstorm Diary Worksheet

Can you imagine there is a big thunderstorm overhead and describe what you see, hear and feel in this diary? Maybe you've experienced a thunderstorm before and you can use the experience to add to your diary entry?

Thunderstorm Playdough Mat

Thunderstorm Playdough Mat

The stormy scene on this playdough mat needs completing with some lightning, clouds and rain! Can the children use their playdough to finish the thunderstorm picture?

Thunderstorm Safety Leaflet

Thunderstorm Safety Leaflet

This writing prompt is a 3 fold leaflet - just print and fold on the dotted lines. Children need to do a little research to write a thunderstorm safety leaflet. Encourage them to think carefully about the information they might want to include and the style that they need to write in.

Thunderstorm Writing Paper

Thunderstorm Writing Paper

We've got three versions of our thunderstorm writing paper - blank, with lines and with handwriting lines. Perfect for a weather topic. Just print and start writing!

Thunderstorms Cloze

Thunderstorms Cloze

Use the word bank to fill in the spaces in this cloze which will teach you all about thunderstorms.

Thunderstorms Factsheet

Thunderstorms Factsheet

How much do you know about thunderstorms? You might learn a few more facts about them by reading our useful factsheet...

Thunderstorms Newspaper Writing Prompt

Thunderstorms Newspaper Writing Prompt

Use your own experience of a thunderstorm, or do a little research, then write a newspaper report using this thunderstorms newspaper writing prompt as a starting point.

Thunderstorms Safety Poster

Thunderstorms Safety Poster

Thunderstorms can be fascinating to watch, but they can be dangerous too! Ask the kids to design a poster telling people how to keep safe during a thunderstorm. 

Thunderstorms Story Paper

Thunderstorms Story Paper

Thunderstorms make a great dramatic backdrop for a creative story! We have two versions of this fantastic thunderstorms story paper available below: lined or with handwriting lines.

More Extreme Weather

Tornadoes
Tornadoes

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